MANDALAY – Five police officers from Kyaukse Township in Mandalay Division were demoted and sentenced to prison terms on Wednesday for accepting bribes to release a timber smuggler.
The police court in Mandalay Division sentenced former Kyaukse Township Police Station chief Pol. Captain Myint Oo to one year in prison, while Pol. Lieutenant Than Htike was jailed for two years and Pol. Lance Corporal Chit San Ko received a three-year sentence. (The ranks shown are their ranks before demotion.)
The officers will be dismissed from duty after serving their sentences.
In addition, the officer who replaced Pol. Capt. Myint Oo as Kyaukse Police Station, Pol. Captain Win Naing, and the Kyaukse Township police chief, Pol. Major Win Zaw, were demoted one rank and stripped of their current positions.
“We have to say that the punishment is fair in light of the need to stop corruption in the police force,” said U Ko Ko Lwin, a member of Kyaukse Township’s 88 Generation Open Society, who testified at the court hearing.
“We submitted the case to the Myanmar Human Rights Council, but the council said that since the case is being handled by the police court, [the council] cannot influence the court. However, we are satisfied with the decision of the court,” he said.
The 88 Generation Open Society in Kyaukse assisted policemen who came forward to expose the corruption.
The case, in which the former police station chief, Pol. Capt. Myint Oo, took a bribe to release timber log smugglers was exposed by five other police officers in early May.
Pol. Corporals Tun Tun Win and Zeyar Maung and two others seized a truck hauling illegal logs on April 24. They later said the township police chief admonished them for making the bust, ordering them to release the logs’ alleged owner and report the incident as a seizure of abandoned logs.
After the case was exposed to the public, the police officers who made the initial bust were arrested. Shortly after their arrest, local residents, rights activists and local lawmakers sent a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking justice on behalf of the detainees and calling for the corrupt officers to be prosecuted.
The smuggler of the timber — Moan Lar, also known as Aung Soe Moe — is well known for paying off police and government officials in exchange for protection. He was arrested, and the five corrupt officers were detained soon after.
The police officers who exposed the corruption were released and received citations for excellence from the Mandalay Division chief minister and police chief.
Moan Lar was charged under the Public Property Protection Act for smuggling timber logs, while the five police officers were charged under the police code of conduct.
The Kyaukse District police chief, who was responsible for sentencing the five police officers, was not available for comment.